Monday, December 12, 2011

Science Fiction Becomes Science FACT

Science fiction is not merely fantasy, made up of the dreams of an imaginative author. Even dreams can have a basis rooted in reality. And sometimes, maybe science is actually inspired by the works of speculative authors. For example, H.G. Wells is one of my all-time favorite authors, and he dreamed up quite a bit of fantastical technological wonders in many of his works.

He wrote about men landing on the moon, a giant bomb that killed using radiation, and he imagined giant machines coming to invade our Earth, shooting lasers at us - long before lasers were invented. Indeed, many things Wells wrote about has come to pass.

So I give you just a handful of the many wondrous science fiction technologies that have now become a reality:

Drones. You're hearing quite a bit about drones doing all kinds of survailance and actually firing weapons upon unsuspecting enemies in the Middle East. Unfortunately, Iran recently admitted that it had captured one of our drones and is reverse-engineering it. But drones have been in science fiction for some time now. I remember Frank Herbert's Dune books containing killer drones. I remember the 1980s Flash Gordon movie there was a drone zipping around and shooting people. And of course, with the AI takeover of Skynet, you had drones flying around dispatching terminators all over the place and wiping mankind off the face of the Earth.

Jurassic Park. Okay, well not quite yet - but according to recent scientific articles, scientists are close to being able to take the DNA preserved in permafrost of the long-extinct Woolly Mammoth, and through the power of cloning, actually create a living specimen. It's a little freaky, but it sounds so cool. Pushing aside any of the moral implications, could you imagine going to the zoo and watching a real Woolly Mammoth walking about?

Hoverboard. It's become an iconic science fiction film scene. In the movie Back to the Future II, Marty McFly  jumps onto one of these beauties and somehow gets away from a pissed off Griff (Biff's cyborg grandson). I remember when the director, Robert Zemickis, said that hoverboards were in fact REAL, but were deemed too dangerous for kids. But reality is just around the corner. Although the hoverboard is not ready for mass marketing, a French artist created a working hoverboard!

Cyborgs. For me, the first real cyborg I ever saw was Darth Vader. Part man, part machine. Science fiction is full of them, especially comic books. There's even a comic book hero named - Cyborg! But you think cyborg technology is only in sci-fi? Wrong! Scientists have developing all kinds of human interface/mechanical parts to help amputees. The US military, in fact, has several prototypes of robotic exoskeletons that soldiers can wear that will enhance their abilities. Mech Wars anyone??? But the one example of cyborg technology that is just amazing is the one developed at MIT to help the blind see again.

Time Machine. To me, this is the Holy Grail of science fiction technology. How many TV shows, books, and movies have employed the use of time travel? Quantum Leap is one of my all time favorites, along with Doctor Who. Christopher Reeve might have been able to travel back in time just by thinking about it (there's a word for that, and it's schizophrenia). But a Russian scientist claims to have built a REAL time machine!

Although everyone knows you can buy one on ebay:


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A real time machine?
I'm still waiting for a real teleporter. Something that gets me to work without dealing with traffic!

Michael Offutt, Expert Critic said...

In his address made to future Martians, Carl Sagan eluded that science-fiction and actual science are in an eternal dance with one another. Dr. Sagan was such an inspiration. On days like this when I remember the things he said, I really miss him.

Ciara said...

I'd love to use that time machine to go back to when these books were published and face the people who rolled their eyes. :)

The Desert Rocks said...

My parents were rocket scientists who loved talking about new inventions at dinner time. Too bad I never listened. Cool post.

M Pax said...

They used hover boards in Highlander II, too. But one tries to forget ... on purpose. :)

Another example is computer disks used in the original Star Trek. Great post, Jay. And you could say our cellphones are a bit like communicators. They've also successfully beamed a molecule of gold.

Jay Noel said...

Alex: That would be a perfect invention, although I wouldn't wanna be the test subject for the prototype. Ever see The Fly?

Michael: I was lucky enough (and old enough) to watch Cosmos on PBS as a kid. I was in the 2nd grade, and that show is probably why I love science so much.

Ciara: I think HG wells was laughed at!But he did have some misses with his predictions. He said submarine technology would never work.

Jay Noel said...

Eve: Are you series? Both of your parents? That's incredible.

Mary: That was the worst sequel ever made. I had forgotten about it until just now! Yuck. Flip phones look like Star Trek communicators.

And some of the handheld medical devices Bones used look similar to technology we have today.

David P. King said...

This is great! There's so much science fiction going on across the blogosphere. It puts a smile on my sci-fi fan face. :)

Rusty Webb said...

I'm looking forward to the near future when I can upgrade my failing body parts with cybernetic parts.

The time machine would be the holy grail of inventions though, it would be greater than teleporters, warp drive or anything else. I don't expect to see one of those in my lifetime though.

Jay Noel said...

David, We live in exciting times. Although the big hoopla surrounding the "God Particle" was a big letdown. Some scientists seem really crazy.

Rusty, I want rocket boosters to come out of my legs so I can fly like Iron Man.

I'm thinking that time travel is only going to be possible through the use of heavy psychotics.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I actually want to go through a wormhole like on Stargate. What's the science behind that?

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